The wait until Aaron Judge is given a clean bill of health continues.
On a charity video call Thursday morning, Yankees' general manager Brian Cashman disclosed that despite growing optimism regarding the slugger's return, he never expected Judge to be back in game shape until the "summertime."
“I always felt it was more likely that we wouldn’t see Judge until the summertime," the GM explained as reporters like Brendan Kuty of NJ.com listened in.
Cashman's appearance on the Zoom call benefited Family Centers’ Emergency Family Assistance Fund, as all proceeds will go to providing financial relief to Fairfield County residents affected by the COVID-19 crisis.
Judge was diagosed with a stress fracture in his first right rib in early-March, an injury believed to date back to a diving catch attempt in September of last season. Pain in Judge's right shoulder and pectoral muscle was first reported to the team just before Spring Training began.
It was later revealed Judge had since recovered from a collapsed lung – an additional setback believed to have been sustained on that fateful play in the outfield last fall. Judge confirmed he had fully recouped from the pneumothorax midway through March.
Cashman explained Thursday that Judge's tolerance for pain and work ethic was the source of a slowed diagnosis.
“He never complains,” Cashman described, as noted by Kuty. “He always pushes through. He never shares that something is bothering him. So, obviously, that's why, when he did show up in the spring and said something's been bothering him, it was an uh-oh moment because he really does not ever complain about anything and he didn't complain in the winter time either.”
Cashman went on to call Judge's threshold for pain, "[Derek] Jeter-like."
The right fielder was forced to sit out all of New York's Grapefruit League schedule, barely participating in Spring Training workouts. Since MLB's coronavirus-induced shutdown began, shortly after his cracked rib was diagnosed, the star has remained in Tampa rehabbing at the Yankees' facility.
He was quickly ruled out for Opening Day, but with the season pushed back due to COVID-19, skipper Aaron Boone was "hopeful" the former Rookie of the Year Award winner could be ready.
Evidently this rare injury is on a longer timetable than the organization and fans alike had hoped. Then again, with MLB's latest proposal calling for an Opening Day on July 1, the GM isn't completely ruling out Judge's readiness as his rib continues to heal.
“But the healing properly these areas, with this particular injury, this is something that’s going to be more challenging,” Cashman said. “But mind over matter with Aaron Judge. Always felt that he would still be ready by Opening Day, when it was the real Opening Day back in the day (March 26). But with the COVID situation — he’s healing. We’ve had multiple MRI imaging that shows the healing and we’ll continue that process that will hopefully continue to show that expected healing moving forward. Once we resume play, we’re excited to believe that he’s going to rejoining us at full capacity.”
On the Zoom call Thursday morning, Cashman also addressed the ongoing negotiations between the players' union and Major League Baseball regarding the league's pending proposal. The Yankees' GM is staying positive that a deal will be reached in the near future.
"I’m optimistic that where there’s a will, there’s a way,” he said.
All in all, Cashman knows Judge will do all he can to get back into the lineup. He's hopeful that when (or if) the season eventually begins, No. 99 will be available.
“Once we resume play, we're excited to believe that he's going to rejoin us at full capacity,” Cashman said, as reported by MLB.com's Bryan Hoch. “He wants to play as much as anybody, and we look forward to getting him back in the lineup.”
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